Autism Denial – Einstein Didn’t Talk Until He Was Four

In my experience, the most likely person to be in denial of a child having a disorder like Autism is the parents, primarily the father. However, in my family’s case, my wife and I never denied it for a moment, everyone else did!

At first our family, trying to be supportive, told us that some kids are just like that, some kids are just quirky, some kids just don’t talk until they’re older. When you observe each individual ‘sign’, they weren’t wrong. Every sign that a child has Autism can be viewed as just a quirky thing that some kids do, when you look at them individually. But when you group all the signs together to form a diagnosis, you realize that they’re not just quirks.

Unfortunately, no one really spent time with Cameron as much as we did so no one could really ever know. Being in denial was a matter of convenience for some because it also meant being supportive at the same time, helping us feel that there was nothing wrong. While that is appreciated, it’s not what we needed, as parents. What we needed more was information. “Awareness” means more than just knowing it exists.

The next case of denial came from the most unlikely of sources, our family doctor. He is an extremely smart and gifted doctor and has a wealth of knowledge in many areas, we are lucky to have found him. But when we brought up the word Autism with him, he immediately dismissed it, assuring us that his quirks and delayed speech are fine.. there was still a lot of time for him to “catch up”.

Did you know that Einstein didn’t talk until he was four? Did you know that he didn’t form complete sentences until he was nine? And he was fine! He was brilliant.

Perhaps, but I’d venture a guess that if Einstein were a child today, he’d be diagnosed with Autism. And the thing with Autism is, no two children are the same. maybe he beat the odds and went on to become a brilliant man, but obviously that isn’t true for everyone. Telling me that Einstein was a delayed speaker does not put my mind at ease when I look at my son at the age of 2.5 who is still unable speak.

Eventually we got into workshops, got speech therapy for Cameron, learned all new ways to teach him, diet tips and more and by the time Cameron was 3, he had a pretty full vocabulary. He’s approaching 5 at the time of this writing and he can speak as well as any other 5 year old.

The reason I mention this is that we’re still facing denial from family and friends who now approach us saying “he is so smart, he seems to be a perfectly normal child… are you sure he ever really did have Autism?”

It hurts a little, to have people dismiss 2 years of very hard work that we’ve done… saying that he must have been perfectly fine all along. But it’s also very flattering and a wonderful compliment as well. After all, what could be better than for people to think an Autistic child is not Autistic??

Those who are close enough to us to spend a decent amount of time with Cameron know the truth. They see it. They realize the extent of what Autism can do when a child is at their worst.

All I can say is, if you suspect Autism, or you know someone who suspects it in their child… don’t deny it. Don’t be supportive by comparing their child to Einstein. Instead, help them get the information they need to find out for sure. Maybe, with your help, they’ll get their child all the help they need that in 2 years others will ask them “are you sure they ever really were Autistic?”

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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9 Responses to Autism Denial – Einstein Didn’t Talk Until He Was Four

  1. RM November 23, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

    This happened to me very much last summer when we finally received our older son’s autism diagnosis. The hardest part was my spouse being in denial, until he took my son out and hard to actually deal with the meltdowns, started seeing the obsessive compulsive behaviors, etc, for himself. With time, he too came to accept that our son had special needs, and actually started researching and talking to doctors and people who knew about the diagnosis or had a family member w/ autism. he is now my greatest support in dealing w/ my son.
    His family’s denial was hard to deal with too. They preferred the old school notion that the mother was to blame (aka refrigerator mother theory). It hurt but I chose not to care. I had to help my son, not care about what others thought of me. But with time they came around and accepted the GFCF diet we put him on when they saw how much it helped him.
    Bottom line, do what is best for your child, and others will see the truth, in time. They will come around and accept reality, and maybe even be willing to help.
    I still have my own denial on some days. He has Aspergers, so sometimes I forget about it, and expect him to be able to do what his neurotypical peers can, like handle sudden changes, karate class, etc.
    I have enjoyed reading your blog and wish you and your son the best. Blogs like yours do great things in spreading awareness.

  2. Catnip Cat December 4, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    i have a brother that is autistic and we love him so much and gave all of our support on him *~:

  3. A.C. July 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm #

    I am dealing with the EXACT same thing… the exact same “einstein didn’t talk until age four” from family. My husband and I are the most alone since we have had our twin boys (who are now 2 and about to be evaluated) and yet would love to have support from others, not just the strangers (therapists) we just started to get to know – who are amazing people. Now we are playing the “everything is fine” card so that we don’t have more issues of dealing with others telling us we are crazy or shouldn’t worry. None of our families live in the same state and only spend an average of 3 times a year around them, yet we are the ones who are seeing it wrong and “helping us feel there is nothing wrong” is the loneliest form of support out there for anyone going through anything – I am living it now. Like you mentioned it is coming from a good place – just not the right thing to do. I have always known something “off” but not enough that others noticed it or wanted to. Until I put them in Early Intervention (first steps program) at age 18 months (thanks to a friend who had a son needing speech therapy) and now their doctor sees some quirky things that she gave the green light to get them tested with her referral. She and the therapists still are unsure if they have it (leaning more towards sensory integration disorder) but want to get in early to help if that is the case. Thank you so much for your above write-up and the blog – I will be bookmarking this page. I know it was done a while ago but I just could not relate to anyone until I saw what you wrote – dead on in every single way.I just couldn’t have said it better myself. If I take anything away from this experience, it is a open mind and heart. Thank you and best wishes/blessings to your whole family and little Cameron!

  4. uncle July 16, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    I am a concerned uncle with a question. Is it possible for children with autism to behave and interact with other children and adults, in a normal loving and caring way, and then switch the symptoms back on, so that it is not always there to be seen?

  5. Deb August 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Thank you so much. This is our life right now and it’s so frustrating. A lot of family!friends keep reassuring us our sone is”fine” and he will “catch up” and he doesn”t really have Autism. Then every time he makes progress I hear a lot of I told you so type comments or reassurance that he is “almost there.” it is very dismissive of all the hard work put in by his therapists, my husband and I, and most importantly him! Glad to know at least we are not alone!

  6. Grandmother August 2, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    Excellent article!

  7. Laura December 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    What is an extended family members role when the immediate family (ie. parents, grandparents, friends) are supporting the denial? One parents started speech therapy but stopped because the other parent and grandparents said there was “nothing wrong, give her time, she said “dog” today-she talks”. She is so obviously affected, and I see that she is retreating farther and farther, but I feel it is absolutely not my place to say that. Do you have advice as a parent who dealt with this?

  8. Elizabeth January 3, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    This could be about my family. I have felt the same feelings and heard the same exact words. My son is 2.5 now, and we have had a diagnosis for about a year. We are making slow and wonderful progress, but the daily battle will never be seen by those that only visit our world. We love our son (and daughter) more an anything else – they are our everything – but in saying that, I would only be hurting them by denying that my son has to deal with the challenges of being autistic or that my daughter will in the future have to deal with the challenges of having an autistic older brother. I wholeheartedly believe that if you yourself have not raised a child with special needs, you can not truly appreciate the amount of patience, energy, love, resilience, and emotional strength that it takes as an individual and as a couple to do what is right for your child. I long for family support… support that sounds like this… “How are you doing?”, “What can we do to help when we come to visit?”, or “Tell me what it’s like so that I can better understand.”. Simple. You just need to genuinely care – no agendas, no self-proclaimed experts, and no silent judgement. That’s what family is, right? There is a long road ahead of us. I have no idea what it will have in store, but I am certain that the warm, loving, and accepting family unit my husband and I work hard to foster will carry us (and our children) through every bump and turn. I hope our extended family members will meet us half way at some point on this journey, but we can’t slow down, change direction, or continually bemoan the lack of effort on the part of others. We have so much to be happy about, and we will make sure that our children grow up to be the kind of people who (if one day asked to) will genuinely and unselfishly embrace the challenges of others, especially those of family.

    Thank you for writing this piece. I hope that many more people in the same position will read it and feel comforted in knowing that they are not alone in their lonely fight, but more so, I hope that their family members read it first. All the best to you in 2013!

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